Friday, March 31, 2017

It was all with the best of intentions: AFTER THE FALL.

After the FallAfter the Fall by Julie Cohen

My rating: 4.5+ of 5 stars

There are all sorts of falls.

For Honor, it is an actual fall. An intelligent, proud woman, Honor raised her son, Stephen, alone. But Stephen married and then unexpectedly passed away, and Honor lives by herself. A fall down the stairs of her stately home lands her in the hospital with a broken hip and her pride deeply wounded. Suddenly, Honor is at the mercy of her former daughter-in-law, Jo, who was Stephen's wife, to help care for her.

For Jo, her fall may not be physical, but she feels as if she's always trying to catch up. Perpetually optimistic, Jo is constantly cheerful for those around her, but she cannot always hide her own doubts about where her life is headed, or if she's doing right by her three children. She's a busy mom to Lydia, Oscar, and Iris, and recently divorced from Oscar and Iris' father. She also fears she may be falling... for another man.

And for Lydia, she too has fallen in love. But she's also a teenager, who lost her father young, and she's dealing with the trials of school and exams. Lydia has a secret, as well: one that threatens her ability to blend in at school and home.

This book, oh this book. I adored this book so much. I fell for these characters (so sorry for that awful pun) hard. From the moment I started reading about feisty Honor, cheery Jo, and teenage Lydia, I loved them. I loved their problems, their sense of humor, and their family. This novel is beautifully written, achingly touching, and often laugh out loud funny.

It alternates between the points of view of our three main women: Honor, Jo, and Lydia. Honor and Jo have never been close, as Honor resented Jo marrying her son, and Jo felt intimidated by the intelligent and strong Honor. But after Honor's fall, she's forced to move in with Jo, her granddaughter Lydia, and Jo's young children with her second husband. The book slowly unfolds the details of how Stephen (Honor's son) passed away and the effect it had on all three women. The entire novel, really, is about little life details and how each they've impacted the three in various ways. In fact, you learn that while we are hearing these stories from three connected people, they really don't know each very well at all. Cohen captures so well how much they need each other, but can't admit it.

As such, there is a poignancy to the novel, as we watch the women navigate life and keep a variety of secrets and hidden sadness from each other. But unlike so many novels, where I want to just scream at the characters to communicate, or where it seems like the entire plot could have been avoided by someone simply talking to another character, this novel is real and true. For instance, Lydia's teen angst and the trials of her adolescence are also so beautifully (although heartbreakingly) portrayed.

It also captures the trials of having children so perfectly. There are some hilarious scenes as Jo navigates caring for her two younger children. Even better are the moments of prickly Honor interacting with young Iris and Oscar. You cannot help but laugh. There is a moment with Oscar and Honor that made me laugh and nearly cry; it was just so funny and touching. The novel is filled with many of these wonderful and witty moments.

I loved how these characters never failed to surprise me. Yes, there were some plot points you could see coming, but they didn't diminish my joy for the book or the depth of the characters. Nothing felt too cliche, and I remained captivated and intrigued. I felt a part of their story and lives. The novel really makes you think; its plot is not just "fluff."

By the end, I still loved all three so much, and my only disappointment was that the book ended. A beautiful 4.5+ stars.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher and Netgalley (thank you!) in return for an unbiased review.

You can read my review of Julie Cohen's novel DEAR THING here.

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